The State: Former VP Pence makes first public remarks, testing 2024 waters with SC conservatives

Making it clear that South Carolina will not be treated as a flyover state for Mike Pence, the former vice president with possible 2024 presidential aspirations told a room of hundreds of Christian conservatives that winning back the White House in four years will start here.

The time has come to “stand up and unite behind a positive agenda” and “win back America,” Pence said in Columbia at a fundraising dinner. “And it starts right here and right now in South Carolina.”

In his first public remarks since leaving Washington — a departure marred by the Jan. 6 Capitol riot when a pro-Trump mob stormed the federal building, sending Pence and members of Congress to hide and barricade themselves — Pence took aim at the Biden administration. He said it’s poised to derail the success the Trump administration made over the past four years.

“In 2020, the American people did not vote for that agenda,” he said. “They did not vote for the agenda of the radical left.”

Thursday’s event was hosted by Palmetto Family, a conservative nonprofit founded to “persuasively present biblical principles” that often lobbies the state Legislature as it did this year when it passed a restrictive abortion ban, now challenged in court.

Pence did not mention in his roughly 30-minute speech what he will do in four years, though he hinted he will have more to say in the coming months. He also did not talk in-depth about his relationship with former President Donald Trump, which appeared fractured after the Capitol riots but has since been mended, CNN reports.

Instead, Pence touted the successes of the Trump administration, from getting three COVID-19 vaccines off the ground to tackling international terrorism.

Pence, 61, has kept a relatively low public profile since leaving Washington, signing a book deal and working at conservative think tank Heritage Foundation and Young America’s Foundation. Recently, Pence, who had been diagnosed with a heart condition, underwent surgery in April.

The last year did pose challenges, Pence said, listing the global COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest after the deaths of Black men and women, particularly at the hands of police, the divisive election, the “tragedy at our nation’s Capitol” and the new administration.

“But through it all, I want you to know that I have hope,” Pence said.

He promised Republicans will make gains after not only losing the White House but losing the Senate, too.

“The best days for the greatest nation on earth are yet to come,” Pence said to applause.

In his corner Thursday night was state Sen. Josh Kimbrell, R-Spartanburg, already gunning for Pence to run in 2024.

“I’m encouraging it. I think he would be an excellent candidate,” Kimbrell said.

A freshman state senator who was one of five Republicans to flipped a Democratic-held seat in November 2020, the Spartanburg Republican told The State Thursday the circles of people he talks to, his constituents, none have shown animosity toward Pence after Jan. 6.

“In fact, a great degree of admiration for him and for his service,” he said.

On multiple occasions, Kimbrell said he has told Pence he hopes he runs in 2024.

“He didn’t say no.”

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